On Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) take on the Baltimore Ravens (8-3) in one of the most anticipated matchups of the season.
The Ravens handed the Steelers their first loss of the season, in Pittsburgh, earlier in the year in week 4.
This was the last game the Steelers played without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Ravens won on a Joe Flacco touchdown pass with less than a minute to go.
Here are my thoughts about the game and what I think the Steelers need to do to win this divisional matchup.
The Steelers almost fell victim to a trap game last weekend when it took them until about two minutes left in overtime to beat the Buffalo Bills.
The key word in that sentence is Almost and the fact of the matter is that the Steelers came away with the victory against a team that took the Ravens to overtime in Week 7.
This was a game that the Pittsburgh Steelers led 13-0 at halftime. They allowed the Bills to come back and tie the game and by all rights, the Bills should have won if Steve Johnson caught that ball in overtime.
The Steelers came away with the victory and don’t have to apologize to anyone for this or any of their wins. They have to just put this game behind them and be focused on beating the Ravens in Week 13.
Rashard Mendenhall had 79 yards and two touchdowns in the first matchup against the Ravens this season and the Steelers will need him to at least match if not exceed that total in the rematch.
The Steelers need to keep their offense balanced against the Ravens this week to be able to take some of the pressure off Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game.
Mendenhall is coming off a week in which he carried the ball for a season-high 36 times for 151 yards and scored his ninth touchdown of the season.
If he can come anywhere near that kind of production this week against the Ravens the Steelers will be able to keep the Ravens defense off balance and use some play action.
Ben Roethlisberger missed the first matchup between the Ravens and Steelers due to beginning the season with a four-game suspension.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with the suspension, it happened, and the Steelers offense suffered for it during the first part of the season.
Charlie Batch filled in admirably against the Ravens, however the game came down to the Steelers making one first down late in the fourth quarter and they could not.
I believe that Ben would have made that first down and with him back the offense is nothing like what the Ravens saw from the Steelers all the way back in Week 4.
Though Ben will be a little hobbled this week, I believe he will healthy enough to carry the Steelers past the Ravens.
These type of games are always hard fought and come down to who can make the least amount of mistakes.
Ben Roethlisberger has not thrown an interception since Week 10 against the Patriots and will need to keep that up this week.
Rashard Mendenhall has only fumbled twice all season however they have both come in the last two weeks against the Raiders and Bills.
The Steelers need to make sure they hang onto the ball this week and cannot turn the ball over against the Ravens and expect to win.
The Steelers disappointingly had only two sacks and three quarterback hits against the Buffalo Bills last week which resulted in Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for 265 yards.
After keeping the pressure on against the Raiders in week 11 it looks like the defense went back to what wasn’t working against the Bills and the Steelers saw a 13-point lead evaporate in the second half.
Against the Ravens, the Steelers defense cannot expect to just sit back and let Joe Flacco have all day to throw.
For the Steelers to have a chance in the game they will need James Harrison, Lamar Woodley, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, and pretty much every other defender to be all over Flacco and the Ravens offense.
After not having an interception since Week 2, Troy Polamalu has had an interception in two-straight weeks.
His pick against the Bills should have iced the game and this week the Steelers will need Troy to be inside the head of Joe Flacco.
Flacco has been having a nice season, however he threw an interception against the Steelers in Week 4 and the Steelers need to try and force him to make another mistake like that this week.
The Steelers defense always seems to be playing better when Troy is flying around and making plays all over the field and that’s what he has been doing the past couple weeks.
In a game like this, the Steelers need their offense, defense and special teams to all play well and make the least amount of mistakes as possible.
The kick coverage units have been doing a pretty good job this season however they gave up a couple of big returns against the Bills last week including one in overtime which looked to set up the Bills to win the game.
The Ravens have not had a great year returning kicks this year and do not have a punt or kick return touchdown yet this season.
The Steelers need to make sure they don’t allow big returns that will let the Ravens have good field position for the entire game.
I was one of Jeff Reeds biggest fans before he was cut from the team and I was hoping he was going to pull things together and the Steelers were going to keep him.
That being said, I understood that Jeff Reed was not having a good season at all and something needed to be done.
After not having any opportunities to kick any field goals in his first game as a Steeler, Shaun Suisham kicked four field goals against the Bills, including the game winner in overtime.
All of Suisham’s field goals were between 40 and 50 yards, the same distance that Jeff Reed went 0-for-4 on this season.
Hopefully Suisham can continue his good start and if called upon in the game against the Ravens, I hope everything he kicks goes through the uprights.
It has become common thought among fans and players alike that the NFL has become embarrassing with the amount of penalties and fines that it has been doling out this season.
I don’t know who, but someone needs to step in and stop this madness, which is ruining the NFL.
The roughing the passer penalty called on James Harrison for his hit on Ryan Fitzpatrick was horrible and completely shifted the game last week against the Bills in my opinion.
The Steelers again had 10 penalties for over a hundred yards last week against Buffalo and they cannot afford anything close to that against the Ravens.
I am not saying that they need to change the way they play, but if they have the amount of penalties as they have been averaging the last few weeks, the Steelers will be put at a huge disadvantage.
The Steelers are the best team in the NFL and this is the week that they finally prove it to everyone.
Their only three losses are to three of the best teams in the NFL in the Ravens, Saints and Patriots.
They have one of the best defenses in the league, and a much improved offense with Rashard Mendenhall running over teams and Ben getting his groove back from last season.
The Steelers have beat some good teams this year, including the Falcons and Buccaneers, however the Ravens are known as one of the toughest teams in the NFL.
I believe that the Steelers need to win this game to show that they are in fact one of the elite teams in the NFL and I fully believe that this will happen on Sunday night.